Ok maybe not profit, but if smashing planets has appeal to you look no further than Planetary Annihilation, an up and coming RTS title from relatively new developer Uber Entertainment and with involvement from Jon Mavor of Total Annihilation and Supreme Commander fame.
The very first RTS title I ever played was actually C&C: Red Alert but the first RTS game I really sunk my teeth into was Total Annihilation which I picked up fairly cheaply from a video game store back in High School and fell completely in love with. The grand scale of combat, the real-feeling physics of the projectiles and units, the ridiculous explosions and destruction, and the very open-ended strategy had a huge appeal to me.
I later spend significant time playing the RTS staples of the day; Age of Empires II/III, Starcraft, and Warcraft 3. Age of Empires eventually sputtered out as a franchise after only limited success with Age of Empires Online. The Starcraft/Warcraft franchise were enjoyable and paved the way for the eventual emergence and dominance of the MOBA genre, while Starcraft II is still going pretty strong. But the only game that managed to somewhat capture the feel of Total Annihilation was Supreme Commander. Unfortunately, Supreme Commander suffered from some bad balance design as released. The Forged Alliance expansion went a long way in correcting this but the damage had been done, and the larger RTS genre was in decline A true spiritual successor to Total Annihilation was still sought by a niche community. An open source TA clone had been created and even after Supreme Commander more or less shut down a small dedicated community kept it viable, but the future of the large-scale RTS genre seemed bleak.
Then… Jon Mavor and others announced Planetary Annihilation, a new concept of RTS designed to blend the feel and style of Total Annihilation, UI and gameplay elements from Supreme Commander, and a whole new scope and scale covering entire solar systems. Launched via Kickstarter in August 2012 with an original goal of $900,000, the game eventually received over $2.2 million in Kickstarter funding and another $100K+ in Paypal donations. Clearly the dream of the large-scale RTS was still alive, though I read online that Supreme Commander had a development cost of $10 million so the project would have it’s share of risks.
Fast forward 20 months later and Planetary Annihilation is now well along in development and fully playable through early access on Steam. I bought into the beta roughly 6 months ago after giving into the temptation of the game and being sold by some gameplay videos I watched. Initially I was shocked to discover that the game had horrible performance and numerous bugs and balance issues; not totally unsurprising for an early beta, but not a game I was going to spend any time on. However after the last few months of steady development Planetary Annihilation has seen a massive improvement in features and performance and I’m ready to spread the word on this fantastic game.
The basic feel of Total Annihilation has been faithfully maintained. You still begin the game with a single commander unit, you still have a ticking real-time streaming economy of mass (metal) and energy, and you still lose when your commander is destroyed. But now the map is a spherical planet or set of planets orbiting a sun and each other. In addition to ground, naval, and air units there are orbital units which can allow for movement between and fighting over the various planets. The titular feature is the ability to actually move planets and even smash them into each other as a sort of end-game strategy.
The game UI features are all designed to focus on the strategic, macro gameplay rather than the micro-management heavy style of Starcraft or League of Legends. Resource production is entirely passive, units can be built and moved about in massive quantities, the map can be zoomed in to look at trees in a forest or zoomed out to see the entire solar system. Strategic icons that appear as you zoom out help to identify unit types and quickly ascertain the map situation at a glance. Rows of buildings can be built and orders can be assigned sweeping orders with a single drag of the mouse, allowing the player to focus on grand strategy of what units to build, where to attack, etc.
Some of the features already in the game are pretty mind blowing if you are used to the traditional RTS model. Spherical planets are a whole new way to play, and all the issues related to square or rectangular maps that have been a bane to RTS games (and many boardgames for that matter) for years. Teleporting gates can link planets allowing you to pour units through to invade heavily fortified enemy held moons. Units and structures range from tiny robot infantry up to huge battleships, giant artillery emplacements, and nuclear missiles streaking through the sky. Although specifically avoiding the factions and mega units from Supreme Commander, the Planetary Annihilation unit roster is off to a good start and bound to expand.
As to be expected with a brand new and ambitious game engine built on a fairly low budget, the graphics are nothing to write home about and performance is still being steadily improved. The graphics focus is on functionality and scale rather than on making individual units pretty, so most of the models are pretty blocky. On the positive side this matches the “robot war” feel of the game and makes it possible for the engine to actually handle 1,000+ units on the screen and the game will supposedly be eventually able to support battles of 40 players over 10+ planets.
If you want to get in on the ground floor of the most exciting RTS title in years, check out Planetary Annihilation on Steam and join the early access. The developers are incredibly open and communicative with the community on the forums and it has been a blast watching the game evolve towards the original vision.